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Category: Interviews »

Subject: Cultural Studies »

Helen Light on diversity of early Jewish immigration to Victoria

Helen Light and Mara Moustafine.

Jewish Museum director Helen Light describes the diversity of early Jewish immigration to Victoria



Date Added:

05 February 2009


source not available


mov (Quicktime);

File size:

7.1 MB





Well they say a lot mainly about persecution and lack of opportunity in other countries. So obviously 1788, we had the convicts. And they were about 12 or 14 Jews on the first fleet and then we had the colonials and the Montefiore's and some other more wealthy people settled. Then there was similar with the gold rush. And quite a few English and German Jews came here really for opportunities. And they settled with merchants in the fields and there’s some leading families that came here then. And then there was the – from Germany in the 1860s when there was a lot anti-Jewish feeling – and then the pogroms in Russia in the 1890s, 1900s.


Then a lot of those people who came – who went from Germany to Palestine came here in the early 1900s, they went there first and for some reason came here. And then there’s the – obviously priests – 1920s again. There was again from Eastern Europe. Then there was pre-war, 1939, the Holocaust during the war and Shanghai and post-war – after the war. And then since then we’ve had people from Iran and from Hungary and Egypt and more recently from Israel and Russia and South Africa.


And South America. It takes a generation I think, sadly to say. There’s a – our community’s no better than others in being – introverted and scared of strangers, I hate to say that we’ve learned, we haven’t learned the biblical injunctions to treat strangers as ourselves. Some do, obviously, like my Uncle Walter and the people in welfare who met the boats and things. But the Russians have found it extremely difficult to settle, I know. The South Africans less so. Because they share language and value systems in a Western culture but I know we did an exhibition of Jews of Russia and they found it very difficult. and still do. Well then there’s Orthodox and Reform and Zionist and anti-Zionist and cultural Jews and a whole – that’s the beauty about being Jewish, it means so many different things and it’s such a rich experience.


End transcript